Zombie Jesus 2010

That magical time of year was upon us again.  The day when Jesus rose from the grave to…make children look for chocolate eggs…laid by rabbits…or something.  I don’t know, its a very confusing holiday to celebrate.  Regardless, it also happens to be the time of year where we buckle down, wash out the turkey fryer and begin that most ancient and wondrous magic of turning a pile of ordinary grain into a tasty elixir that bestows attractiveness and self-confidence.

Last year’s Zombie Jesus was a rousing success, and I find myself getting far more requests for this beer than I have in supply.  Next year, we might buy some extra equipment and try brewing a double batch to give us some more bottles to sell to friends and family.  This year, I feel like I’ve promised most of my supply away before I even had a chance to crack open a bottle.  Speaking of which, I finally cracked one open tonight a little ahead of schedule and am generally pleased with the results.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so while I feel like we still have a ways to go before we’ve got the recipe where I want it to be, we’re definitely making progress.  I think the hop combination we have right now is about perfect.  The smell is absolutely phenomenal, and surprisingly reminiscent of Dogfish Head 90 min, one of my favorite IPAs.  However, we’re still under-malted in my opinion.  The feel of the beer is still lighter than I’d like and less alcoholic than I’d prefer (still not bad at around 6.5%).   But I’m being picky and opened it a little ahead of schedule.  Some more bottle conditioning will likely do this beer good.

Still, I’m impressed we made the move from an extract recipe to all-grain while still improving on the original model.  The conversion went much smoother this time around, as did the hopping.  Next time around I would consider upping the malt even more as well, controlling the temp better for the step mash, adding some munich or vienna, maybe a touch of chocolate malt, and adding  some sugar to up the alcohol.  All bitching aside though, I think this is a solid beer and I’m proud to have made it.

This time through I decided to play around with a yeast starter.  I’m actually kinda embarrassed that I didn’t know to do it before now, however in my research into all grain IPAs, I found them mentioned all over the place and decided to look into it.  Turns out for high gravity beers, it is highly recommended to start your yeast culture going about a day ahead of time.  Unfortunately for me, I discovered this information exactly one day in advance and had to seriously improvise on equipment, while freaking out about the possibility of me killing our culture of yeast a day before brewing.

First, let me tell you how it should be done.   You should take the DME and water and mix it in the sanitized 2 liter Erlenmeyer flask you have bought weeks ahead of time, because you knew this was going to be a step in the process.  Then you should heat the Erlenmeyer flask over the stove until it’s boiling, then let it cool.  Afterwards you will pitch the yeast into it, then seal it with an airlock and stopper that you have also purchased, designed to fit the flask.  Then you let the CO2 bubble out through the airlock, confident that no oxygen or bacteria is getting in.  Of course I had no flask, stopper or airlock, so I took some the the DME I had, mixed it with water, brought it to a boil and then let it cool for a bit before pouring it ever so gently through a sanitized coffee filter holder into a sanitized 2 liter of Shasta.  Afterwards, I ever so carefully pitched the yeast into the Shasta bottle and sealed it with the bottle cap, delicately cracked open to let CO2 out.  Anyway, it worked out fine, and the next day I woke up to find it magically bubbling away.

Onto the brewing.  We happened to brew on the most gorgeous Black Friday in recent history.  After work, I hastily sealed up the yeast starter, put my equipment in the car and rushed over to Diego’s so that we could hopefully finish our operation before midnight.  We are joined by brewing apprentice, Troll.  The man knows his beer quite well and already has a passing familiarity with the home brewing process, so we are confident he will be a journeyman before too long.  We talk about logistics for a bit (where the mash tun will go, where we’ll brew, etc), crack open some beer, and then get down to the business of cleaning.  The whole process is much easier in general with a 3rd person.  I soon realize I have forgotten the hops at home on the south side, a regrettable error when going about the business of making an IPA or any kind of beer for that matter, but my beautiful fiancee once again comes to the rescue.  Once we’re done cleaning, we set up the equipment and begin brewing.  The step mash does not follow the steps that we want it to, but alas as Diego says, “The Cajun Bayou is not a precision instrument.”  We end up getting the conversion we want at the length of time we want in something more akin to an infusion mash.  Everything else seems to go fairly well until we realize we need a hose for the counterwortflow chiller and none can be found.

Diego and I then make an educated decision to steal someone else’s hose.  You see, most people are not expecting some jerk to come along and take their hose.  So, hose security is understandably lax.  After nervously scouting a few houses, we eventually decide on one with a fairly portable length of hose and I go about the business of detaching it.  Diego is on lookout and does a rather poor job, because as I leave the house with a length of hose coiled around my arm, a cop car drives past on the street.  Anyway, my criminal doings go unnoticed by the CPD and we proceed back with the bounty.

Troll manages the boil quite nicely adding hops at regular intervals and we smell the powerful aroma that they release.  Eventually, we get to the point where we transfer it into the hopback and prepare to make use of the counter-wortflow chiller.  Now it should be mentioned that I seriously am in need of better hosing attached to the counter-wortflow chiller as one length of hose is all but melted from the last time it was used.  We hook everything up and begin the process of draining, but the flow gets stuck due to the weak hose.  While we’re fiddling with it, the hose comes loose and my hand is blasted with boiling water for a few seconds while I hastily try to shut off the flow and fix the connection.  Eventually we fix it and carefully manage the flow down into the carboy.  The rest goes according to plan, we pitch the yeast with the yeast starter and seal up the carboy.  Fermentation happens beautifully.  So I pile a mountain of aloe onto my burned hand and go home content in the knowledge that Zombie Jesus has been brewed and in a months time or so I can taste the results.

Here are the steps we followed along with some comments on the process:


·         15 lbs Pale Ale 2-row (Breiss)

·         1 lb caramel 60L Breiss (caramel/crystal specialty grains

·         1 oz Simcoe pellets

·         1 oz Warrior pellets

·         2 oz Amarillo hop plug packages

·         1 oz glacier leaf hops

·         Northwest Ale Activator Wyeast

·         1 tsp gypsum

·         ½ tsp irish moss


1.       Day in advance prepare 2L Yeast starter

2.       Sanitize all equipment to touch beer

3.       In large pot add 1 tsp gypsum to 4 gallons of water and raise temp to 145 (this can be done while sanitizing other equipment)

4.       Set up lauter-tun system

5.       Add the crushed malt to the water and mix well.  Temp should stabilize at 133.  Hold for 30 min.  Add heat if necessary, don’t worry about a 3-5 degree drop during this time. (Fat chance.  Temp stabilized at around 155.)

6.       Begin boiling additional water (8 quarts worth)

7.       After the 30 min at 133, add the additional 8 quarts of boiling water to raise the temp to between 150-155 and hold for 45 min. (Raised temp to around 160 -165)

8.       Raise temp to 158 for 10-15 min

9.       Raise temp to 167, then filter out into lauter-tun system

10.   In a pot, add ½ tsp gypsum to 3 gallons water.  Raise temp of the water to 170 and add to the lauter tun water supply. 

11.   Begin draining from lauter-tun to pot below.  Begin water flow from cooler to lauter-tun.  Adjust rate as needed

12.   Bring to a boil, add warrior pellets

13.   Add 1 amarillo hop plug after 15 min of boil and then again every 15 min for 3 hop plugs in total

14.   Boil total for 60 or 90 min? (Probably boiled for around 75-90 min)

15.   5 min before finish add ½ oz simcoe pellets and glacier hops as well as ½ tsp irish moss (Only added the glacier hops, kept simcoe for dry-hopping)

16.   Pour through the hopback and add cold water if necessary to reach the appropriate water level.

17.   Pour in the yeast from the yeast starter

(OG: 1.06 FG 1.012)

Yay Zombie Jesus!

An Evening of Folk Metal


Our tale begins a few weeks ago, when a boisterous young chap named Ben Alton struck out upon the town in search of beer and merriment.  During his travels, he happened upon the Bottom Lounge and “Dogfloydapalooza”, at which time he made a mental note to check the venue for future events.  Fortituously for our young hero, he discovered that a Finntroll and Moonsorrow show was upcoming in a week’s time.  However, since Dark Lord Day was looming on the horizon, money was tight and he had to go to his beautiful fiance to procure tickets.  Because she loves all things Metal, the show was to become a reality.

Ok.  I have to switch out of 3rd person before I get too obnoxious.  Making this show was going to be a tight fit.  We had long ago promised to go venue vetting with the parents for our wedding location and this was going to very closely coincide with the start time of the show.  I met Susan and our parents over as Osteria Via Stato, for some phenomenal food that truly deserves to be described in greater detail than I can presently go into.  After dinner, we left for our place to get geared up and head out.

We caught a cab with an interesting cab driver, and in a decent mood decided to chat him up a bit.  He seemed in a bit of a pissy mood at the time and mentioned looking forward to returning to his home country, Bosnia, which he described as a beautiful place that happened to have psychopaths pop into power every 15 years or so.  After listening to his thoughts on the world, we arrived at the venue.  He stopped us after we paid to give us a lengthy sermon on the nature of love, and happiness in marriage.  He also dropped some colorful comments about how more parents should spank their children and that we were each given a pass for cheating in the future if it was Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt.  We absorbed his sagely advice as gracefully as we could and got to the show a little late.

We didn’t catch the first band that played that night, but at least arrived before Swallow The Sun took the stage.  I am very happy to have seen their set in full.  They are a phenomenal blackened doom metal band, and made a very strong impression.  The lead singer’s vocals were very versatile, with some pretty intense black metal rasps and death metal growls.  Their song “These Woods Breathe Evil” has been stuck in my head for days now, and is an excellent piece of extreme metal.  They finished their set with the song “Swallow” which culminated in a pretty intense pit, which I was not yet drunk enough to enter.

After about 3 beers and a shot, Moonsorrow took the stage and I was ready to enter the pit.  Moonsorrow is a folk metal band from Finland, as is Finntroll, and their sound was a definite departure from Swallow the Sun’s darker notes.  I jumped into the pit, which was far more intense than I expected.  After colliding with people for a bit, it dawned on me that it was a terrible idea to come from a multi-course Italian dinner, chug a bunch of beer and opt to be a human pinball.  So I had to take a breather for a bit and let my stomach calm down.  That made it hard for me to enjoy Moonsorrows set unfortunately, so I was not left with the best overall impression.

The next band brought down the house.  Finntroll, like many good and bad ideas was the result of a night of fierce drinking.  “What if we combine black metal with old Finnish humppa music?”   And Finntroll is born.  A band who’s lyrics revolve around a finnish troll king and his followers who fight off invading Christians.  I never would have thought that folk music and black metal would go together, but I was wrong.

Finntroll’s performance was fierce and fun.  They sounded absolutely fantastic, and I could not help but throw myself once again into the pit.  I spent a good deal of time in there during their set, as it was hard to not want to move and thrash about while listening to their music.  By the time I left the pit later in the night, I had blood in my beard.  I recall taking a forearm to the teeth and must have cut my lip in the process.  Still no major injuries, so no harm, no foul.  Close to the end of the show as people were getting tired, I grabbed Susan and made a dash through the pit with her to end up right in front of the stage to finish out the show.  After the show, people from the pit went up to each other shaking hands and thanking one another.  There’s something incredibly cool about that.

When you make the decision to get into a pit, especially one that looks particularly violent, you make a mental call that acknowledges the possibility of you getting hurt.  Most of the time you’ll just end up with bruises, but sometimes if you’re unlucky, you’ll get a sprained ankle, cracked rib, chipped tooth, etc.  So you have to accept that these things are a natural risk and most of the time, just unintentional collateral damage from the other moshers.  Because in general, people are in there to just have a good time and let off some steam.  If you fall down, you are usually helped up by everyone else at a dizzying speed.  And although you may be rough in there and fling yourself full force into random strangers, they just might end up shaking your hand and thanking you for the experience at the end of it.

Anyhow, after the show was over, we talked a bit with the keyboardist from Swallow the Sun.  Turns out they’re coming to Reggies with Katatonia in September, so we have another must-see show to attend.  This post could probably stand a good deal of editing, but as I’m pressed for time I’ll have to quote Blaise Pascal who once said, “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”  Now I’ll shut up and feed you some Finnish metal.  Enjoy.